EAST COAST: 1/23/02 - 2/?/02

Leaving Chapel Hill
I left the bus station with a deep breath. This was the first time in my life I've traveled so far alone and with no responsibility. It was a deep cool breath full of smiles and freedom. I drove on down I-95 through South Carolina into the night, stopping once or twice to look for a movie theater. I wanted to see "Lord of the Rings" by myself and laugh at my liberation. I read all of those books when I was young and it was my own first and true escape. But that night I was to drive straight through until Savanna, GA where I recognized a pungent odor that I had smelled the last time I toured the southeast. Someone needs to tell me what that smell is. My guess is the swamps or factories, and near that odor I stopped at a cafe and had the famous southern "sweet tea", which is actually iced tea without the lemon. But they're proud of it and I was glad to enjoy it for them. A giant Georgian truck stop made for a good spot to spend the night. So I cleared out the middle seat of the van and slept soundly.
I awoke to my first real taste of warm weather in months. The sun relaxed my thoughts and I took out time to read books in the afternoon. After a good shower at the truck stop I had a bite to eat in their diner and watched the slunk shouldered workers move slowly through the monotony of their duties. Sometimes acceptance of your fate is very sad and I felt more lucky than before.
Back on the road. I smiled from Savannah to Boca Raton where I met up with my friend Merin. It was after dark. We had time to kill before meeting more friends so she took me to the beach. Of course the beach doesn't impress a Florida native, but for me the ocean just brings out every good memory of summer vacations with family. We stood on a boardwalk overlook and spied a family of Raccoons living well on trash. Then we made our way to Alex's house where I witnessed my first "Halo" party (which I'll explain later). Alex works with Undecided records and was the first person to offer me a record deal a few weeks earlier. That was the point where I began to think this Jupiter Sunrise thing might actually go somewhere. I've tried hard not to get my hopes to high, Merin and I watched a while and eventually joined in. Here's the scoop. A "Halo" party is when dorky guys bring over their X-Boxes and TV's and we link them all together. You can combine up to 4 X-Boxes and 4 TV's for a massive 16 player game of "Halo", the space marine combat game. Then you fight to the death for too many hours until your eyes are bloody and your sugar level is unbalanced. It's heaven. A nerdfest of enormous magnitude. Some of the guilty participants included members of Further Seems Forever, Glasseater, Undecided Records, etc. We had such parties several times over the two weeks that I stayed with Alex.
The apartment was a common Florida condo complete with pool, weight room, and security gate. There were fascinating palm trees and other normal stuff which I noticed to the amusement of the locals. Alex shared the apartment with his roommates"Incredible Weirdo", "Captain Extreme", and "XWesX". Nicknames are popular in the south Florida indie scene, and I rarely learned any real names. It was funny to hear someone actually reply to "hey Weirdo" with complete recognition. And it was funnier to watch "Incredible Weirdo" sleep on his floor in pants, no shirt, with no blanket and his bed frame propped up in the corner of his room full of old electronic devices. Some nicknames are easy to assign.
For the next two weeks Alex dragged my butt around Florida to meet his friends and see some shows. We went to a Glasseater concert first and I helped Alex set up his CD distro on some pool tables. The hard-core scene in Florida is passionate and violent. Cliff from Undecided told me that one of our friends at that show once got stabbed in a fight and still won. It reminded me of my friends in Syracuse.
That night there were a few minor scuffles and I got frustrated when I saw some jerk kick a small kid in the back. So I threw a tornado kick through the circle pit and stared him in the eye. I thought it was kind of funny, because even if an Asian guy pretends to know kung-fu all imaginations run wild and screaming. The moshing stopped for a while.
That night we went to a cool vegan restaurant and I had "The Rooster". All the vegans with us were sure that it tasted just like real chicken, but the memory for meat must fade drastically. I was surrounded by so many vegans during my stay in Florida that I practically became one, and have since stayed a vegetarian. Without preaching, I'd like to say that I feel a lot better.
The restaurant was a haven for interesting people. One guy that stood out particularly was a very colorful fellow named "Brooklyn". He was a really big hard-core looking dude with lots of tattoos and piercing. He was an intense boisterous dreamer who apparently knows every famous person that there is. I told his friends that I'd thank him if I ever won a big music award and they thought he might have a stroke. He works at The Gap helping preppy kids pick out sweaters in fear for their lives.

Tuesday of that week - Melbourne, FL - Some show at a resort
A few days later Alex got me a spot on a show in Melbourne, FL. We made the trek up north a couple of hours to a classic beach side resort. This was easily one of the weirdest shows I've ever played. At some point in the evening I stood in the middle of the open air venue and rotated my head for a witness of the strange juxtapositioning of the elements in play. In one view there was a beautiful full moon hanging over the Atlantic ocean stuck with sailboats in action. When I squinted my eyes it looked like an impressionist painting in a J.C. Penny Catalog. As I swung around there was an equally beautiful group of street punks sporting mohawks and metal studs. All of them were about 13 years old and probably don't realize that their grandparents could have listened to the Sex Pistols, but the spirit of punk lives in the middle class! So as I kept looking around I saw little social cliques - indie kids, punk kids, hard-core kids, kids like me who don't have a group, and a dinner crowd sipping chardonnay and nibbling on French biscuits. All the elements for a real rockin good time! The sound was bad, the promoter was really nice, and the whole thing was catered by waiters in white suits.

The rest of the week was more X-BOX! I vegetated.

Later that week - Some place in Fl - Cool show!
I rarely get to just attend a concert that I'm not playing at, but Alex took me to see Further Seems Forever, Rocking Horse Winner, Onelinedrawing, and another band that I can't remember (sorry). What an amazing lineup! It was on the second floor of a community hall with a broken air conditioner. The temperature near the stage must have reached about 120 degrees! Jason, the new singer of FSF, passed out at the end of the show and threw-up behind the stage. Rock and Roll! Jonah (Onelinedrawing) was my main interest that night. This was my 4th time seeing him play and I was very curious to see if he could pull it off again. Not that I didn't think he could do it but I found it hard to believe that anyone could perform at that level every night with consistency. To my amazement the show was incredible again. What an inspiration! Both Ben and I will readily admit that if it wasn't for Jonah we wouldn't have had the guts to go out and perform solo. Thanks Jonah.

Sunday of that week - Miami, FL - Some Bar in the Ghetto
I hooked back up for another show with CTS in Miami. It wasn't well attended but the friends I had made in Boca came down, including Merin, Alex, xWessx (x-drummer for Walls of Jerico who incidentally almost became the drummer for Jupiter Sunrise, that's a long story in itself. Great guy), Jessica (A friend of Alex who came down to visit from OH, who incidentally will be doings shows for JS in OH. Thank you), members of Rocking Horse Winner (who I'd love to tour with), Incredible Weirdo, and more. All really special people who listened very intently to my show and I'm grateful for that. I really love those people. They had a little mini party for me with a cake before I left the next day.
I miss them.

An interesting stop - New Orleans, LA
I left Florida in a similar manner in which I arrived. Inconspicuous, alone, but this time without the smiles. I guess it didn't take me very long to realize that I'd rather have my friends and family than freedom by myself. So I drove endlessly for the next two days on my way to California. Florida looked bleak and flat on the way out. It was just my mood. I made some phone calls in Alabama to my girl Heather who was living with her sister in LA. I was really ready to see my loved ones again.

Before I get into the New Orleans story I want to make mention of something that has bothered my since I was a kid. Touring is helping me to figure it out. In high school I was really unpopular (not complaining but I have to set this up). I really wanted to be on the baseball team and be good at sports, but I was always behind the other kids in my physical development. Those jocks had a group or a club I wanted to be part of. I tried really hard despite the whispers and looks. I failed. I was not accepted. Then years later I found myself struggling to become known in the indie music scene. And it's the same thing. My music isn't hard-core or punk or cool. It's just what I do and I feel like an outsider again. In my perfect world the underground would be a place for all types of new music to be heard. The underground is full of passionate intense people and that's why I want them. But I'm afraid it's becoming just a popularity contest. I'm afraid they aren't listening anymore.

So I arrived in New Orleans smack in the middle of Mardi Gras on one of the coldest days you'll ever feel in the south. It hovered just above freezing that night. Small crowds of college kids shivered together covering their disappointment with false smiles and "w-wow, w-w-what a p-p-party, eh?" It was fascinating. The parade route was nearly empty, so that the beads being thrown from the floats covered the ground untouched. Several times a package of beads hit me in the head and I realized that the bored workers were playing target practice. Bourbon street is the center of the after-parade party and it still has all the old French architecture - wrought iron, balconies, small white washed colonial structures, and years of festive behavior wear down stone curbs. It's really a beautiful place if you look past the commercialism and decadence. A slice of pizza is $5 and strip clubs are free. So I took pictures of the street performers, a drummer, a jester, etc, and then walked for hours trying to find my car. Literally hours. I walked clear around the whole city calling Heather on my cel periodically to bide the time. I just kept going until I finally found it.

So it was around 3am when I left New Orleans, and I headed straight west on I-10. Near dawn I crossed the Texas border. The landscape gradually changed from green to tan. The sunrise over the plains was beautiful, bright, and clean over a painfully flat, vast, low horizon. Houston rose up like a robot kingdom in the wasteland. Austin was hill country, rolling and grassy. I stopped just outside of town to take some pictures and stretch. I was slammed with silence. The edge of the desert was dead quiet. The loud kind of quiet that makes city folk feel nervous that they might relax to death. Hours of endless driving took me through all of the western flatlands, grasslands, badlands, and wastelands. Every type of rock, lifeless, empty, alone, so alone. There were times when there wasn't another car or human or sign of humanity within miles. I drove 100 miles an hour, then 10. It didn't matter. And I didn't sleep in Texas.
By the evening I slipped past El Paso into New Mexico. The lights of the city looked like a sparkly throw rug lying at the base of mountains suspiciouly absent of trees. The New Mexican night sky was magnified and brilliant. It made me think and hear things I had forgotten. Complete release. There were shadows of cacti close to the road. I couldn't see the desert but I could feel it. Near Pheonix I decided to stop. 22 hours of straight driving. No sleep since Alabama 36 hours ago.
In the morning I woke up blind. My contacts were so dry from not being changed that my eyes were glued shut. I forced them out. It was several hours before my eyes didn't burn and they could see clearly again. I showered in a truck stop, then got a haircut and made myself pretty as I made west one more time. By evening I saw the lights of Palm Springs which I mistook for LA. It seemed small. I hit Orange County soon after and reunited with Heather. We went out to dinner and for the rest of the weekend she showed me around LA. Hollywood looked smaller than I expected as does almost every city I go to. I was happy again. Here I was in LA. The promised land for musicians and actors. What next?